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February 2014

Friday Ephemera

Play with a giant eyeball. You know you want to. // In search of a human penis. // “Smells and tastes like the real thing.” // Interactive aquarium. // $1000 marbles. Go on, treat yourself. // Attention hipsters: $7000 beard transplants. // Snowflakes. // Few other national newspapers have this problem. // Loop the loop on foot. // The museum of uncut funk. (h/t, Coudal) // 3D printed selfies? There’s an app for that. // Abandoned panopticon prison, Cuba. // Crime and jazz. // Just the one noodle, I think. // Bryan Cranston versus Gojira. // For Julia, the cat privilege checklist. // And via Kurt, Takeshi Terauchi’s “Japanese surf versions of classical themes.” From groovy surf Beethoven to groovy surf Brahms. Dig it, people. 

The Roar of Enlightened Manhood

A troubled student writes:

As a proud male feminist,

Oh, go on. Guess where

As a proud male feminist, I believe it’s important for men to rally around the feminist movement to provide support and to act as an example for other men to follow. So it confuses me that at university a shockingly large number of male students I speak to refuse to apply the term to themselves, instead being evasive and avoiding such an empowering title.

Yes, dear readers, it’s both shocking and confusing that in the twenty-first century, in one of the most cosseting and politically corrected environments in all of the developed world, some male students feel no need to describe themselves as feminists. And calling oneself a feminist, announcing it proudly to the world - or at least to other, likeminded, equally proud students - is apparently the duty of all righteous beings, especially those with testicles. It’s empowering, you see. And never a sign of narcissism, credulity and pretentious moral grandstanding

The scandalised and bewildered author of this piece is Mr Lewis Merryweather, a first year student of comparative literature at the University of Warwick. “He is a proud feminist,” reads his Guardian profile, “and writes poetry.” And the sorrows of his life are there for all to see:

I often encounter negative reactions when declaring myself a male feminist at university.

Missionary work is hard. Bring handkerchiefs, quickly, a dozen at least. And possibly towels and a mop.

I find this attitude among male students worrying… Perhaps it stems from male panic, that, foolishly, male students worry they may lose power and opportunity in a world of feminism. Perhaps guy students are embarrassed to align themselves with a word that lexically alludes to female-centrism.

Yes, that must be it. Those lexical allusions are a real bugger.

Maybe they’re worried about feeling emasculated.

Says our fretful poet. A man agonised by the existence of peers who don’t think exactly as he does and won’t wear his badge. And to make matters worse, there’s the ever-present shadow of hegemonic oppression:

In the words of Colm Dempsy, a male feminist who spoke at the forum I attended: “I am a proud male feminist. I am willing to fight with you. If you let me.” This is a statement every man, inside university and outside, should be able to shout without fear of being silenced by society.

Silenced by society. In a national newspaper. 

Continue reading "The Roar of Enlightened Manhood" »

And Now a Word from Our Sponsors

For readers who missed last week’s fundraising post, this blog is now an Amazon affiliate. Which means that, should you do any shopping via this link in the UK, or this link in the US, or using the Amazon search widgets at the top left and right of this page, your host receives a small fee at no extra cost to you. If that’s not an incentive to shop, and shop deliriously, I don’t know what is. 

Among the items already bought this way are several books found on my own shelves, including Fabian Tassano’s excellent Mediocracy, a sort of devil’s dictionary of modern inversions and dishonesties; David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin’s One-Party Classroom, an eye-widening overview of dogma and question-begging masquerading as education; and Thomas Sowell’s no less marvellous Intellectuals and Society, which was discussed here and here. An extract:

If you happen to believe in free markets, judicial restraint, traditional values, etc., then you are just someone who believes in free markets, judicial restraint and traditional values. There is no personal exaltation resulting from those beliefs. But to be for “social justice” and “saving the environment” or to be “anti-war” is more than just a set of beliefs about empirical facts. This vision puts you on a higher moral plane as someone concerned and compassionate, someone who is for peace in the world, a defender of the downtrodden…

In short, one vision makes you somebody special and the other vision does not. These visions are not symmetrical. Because the vision of the anointed is a vision of themselves as well as a vision of the world, when they are defending that vision they are not simply defending a set of hypotheses about external events, they are in a sense defending their very souls – and the zeal and even ruthlessness with which they defend their vision are not surprising under these circumstances.

Should anyone feel compelled to make a direct contribution to the upkeep of this blog, and thereby boost my self-esteem, there’s a PayPal button top left. And by all means use the comments to suggest other items of possible interest. And thanks to Pierce. 

Elsewhere (112)

Jeff Goldstein and Mark Bucher on California’s unsustainable public sector: 

Instead of relying on the assertions of union officials about how underpaid government employees might be, citizens can see what these employees are actually making. In thousands of cases, the information is shocking. Consider Redwood City, where three fire captains and one firefighter made between $434,274 and $452,733 in total compensation in 2012. One police officer made $463,690 in total compensation. In all, nine employees made over $400,000 in total compensation with a total of 33, mostly police and fire department employees, making over $300,000 in total compensation in 2012. Those are staggering sums anywhere, but in a city with a population of just 79,009, they’re a recipe for fiscal disaster.

And Peter Wood on Sandra Korn and the inversion of meaning: 

On Monday, February 17, Ms Korn, a Harvard senior, published an essay in the Harvard Crimson, titled The Doctrine of Academic Freedom, with the explosive sub-head, “Let’s give up on academic freedom in favour of justice.” Korn’s argument is simply summarised: The freedom of faculty members to pursue research and to teach has some value, but these activities always and everywhere reflect political considerations. A university community rightly has its own political values and when a faculty member violates them, he should be silenced. “Academic justice” is more important than academic freedom.[…]

Academic freedom, as the idea developed historically, recognised the need to insulate scholars from the politically-minded outsiders who saw scholarship as threatening. Today, members of the professoriate are often politically-minded and the doctrine of “academic freedom” is often inverted in an attempt to insulate them from genuine scholarly standards… To put it concisely: academic freedom once meant protection from politics; now it means protection for politics.

The kind of politics being protected scarcely needs pointing out. Ms Korn, the student who objects to academic freedom (for others, that is), lists her interests as “socialism, being angry about gender” and “occupying things.” She also tells us that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Though again, that’s her dissent, not yours. And so she asks the question, “Why should we put up with research that counters our goals?” You see, finding things out must be entirely subordinate to certain, rather fashionable political assumptions. Which is to say, her assumptions. It’s exactly the quality one hopes for in a modern intellectual.


Continue reading "Elsewhere (112)" »

Friday Ephemera

Eye of the Tiger, the dot matrix printer remix. // Eye of the pigeon. // How to entertain goats. (h/t, Kate) // The glamour of figure skating. // The frequency of things, from flushing politicians to shoe sales in Phoenix. // The utterly stylish Fujitsu finger glove. // And then it just fell off. // Miliband: man of destiny. (h/t, TDK) // Made with sand. // Birds Eye Mashtags. // Amps. // Socks. // Saturn V cutaway. // “The hippo’s testes are totally invisible from the outside.” And removing them is tricky. // Vertical cinema is a thing, apparently. // 500,000 sugar cubes. // A boy and his dog. // And the wafty, tendentious bollocks of leftwing cultural ‘theorists’. You see, Close Encounters is in fact “a fascist film, capitalist propaganda.”

Fixing the World

Some pressing issues of the day, expressed via the medium of Guardian reader polls. 

Is Barbie’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover empowering or demeaning? 

“Is the doll still an icon worth looking up to, or another bad example of unrealistic body image?” 30% said it’s demeaning and that something must be done. Reader comment of note: “I think Barbie should be updated for the 21st century to reflect modern reality. So what about Homeless Barbie, Single Mother Barbie, Brain Surgeon Barbie, Autistic Barbie, Astronaut Barbie, Binge Drinker Barbie, Minimum Wage Barbie, etc.?”

Should Facebook remove all gender options or create more?

“Facebook recently added over 50 custom gender options for users in addition to ‘male’ and ‘female’. While the site’s move has largely been hailed as progressive, users are divided on the next step.” There’s a next step? This one was a close-run thing, with a narrow majority (54%) in favour of abolishing gender options altogether. Reader comment of note: “Fifty seems enough to cover all possible bases.”

Should restaurants ban people from taking photos of their food?

How should society deal with the menace of the me-and-my-food selfie? Only 30% said yes to a ban. Reader comments of note: “It’s time to ban mobile phones AND restaurants.” And, “The people who take photo’s [sic] of their food are lacking in confidence [and] are really trying to show others that they are able to eat out at the current ‘in’ place[,] a sort of pathetic status symbol. I would fully support the restaurants in refusing people who are eating there to take photo’s [sic] of their food.”

Should Disney create a plus-size princess? 

“What do you think?” Surprisingly, a majority (82%) didn’t see much need for a hefty ballgowned heroine. Reader comment of note (and I like this one): “Should Metallica do more Celine Dion covers?”

The Pan Handle Strikes Back

Patrons are reminded that this rickety barge is kept afloat by the kindness of strangers. If this place has entertained you during the last few months – say, with things like these – then by all means feel free to monetise your love. Think of it as a magazine subscription. Or an act of nobility in a cruel, cruel world. 

I’ll just leave this here, should you feel the urge. 


The keen-eyed among you may have noticed that Amazon search widgets have appeared at the top left and right of this page, for the US and UK respectively. Any items bought via the widgets will result in a small fee for your host at no extra cost to you. Now you can indulge your consumerist lust with the loftiest possible motive. 

Elsewhere (111)

Via TDK, Theodore Dalrymple on rhetorical leverage and ‘progressive’ self-flattery: 

Professor Lakoff uses the term ‘progressive’ freely. Now there is a framing metaphor if ever there was one. What person of goodwill could possibly be against progress, that is to say betterment of the human condition? So if you are a person in favour of progress – in short, a progressive – only the malevolent could disagree with you.

However, there is a rather large question begged here, namely ‘What is progress?’ There is rarely gain without loss, and loss can easily exceed gain. Human action has unintended and unforeseen consequences, sometimes beneficial, often not. Progress in society is not the same as progress in internet speeds… It is possible for reasonable people to disagree… Yet Professor Lakoff seems to use the term ‘progressive’ as if those he calls progressives brought about progress ex officio, as it were, merely by virtue of their self-designation. This is a form of magical thinking.

I’m reminded of the modesty of Mr George Monbiot, a man who also deploys the word ‘progressive’ as if it were a talisman, and who dismisses his political opponents as dullards struggling with “low intelligence” and racial phobias. 

BenSix on learning to be mute and befuddled: 

These posters and drawing hardly seem to be the stuff of Voltairian pamphlets. They do not renew the liberal flames in me. What should inspire one, though, is the response to them. It is alarming that our national media feels that it cannot publish a drawing of a cartoon man for fear of violent reprisals. If people are scared to show innocuous cartoons, how might they react to a novel that may provoke controversy, or to academic research that might inspire outrage? …If, indeed, Rory Bremner is scared to joke, or Grayson Perry to make art, how many commentators, novelists and scholars have allowed their thoughts to be repressed?

And Jonah Goldberg on hammers, sickles and not saying certain things: 

In its opening video for the Olympic Games, NBC’s producers drained the thesaurus of flattering terms devoid of moral content: “The empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint; the revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments. But if politics has long shaped our sense of who they are, it’s passion that endures.” To parse this infomercial treacle is to miss the point, for the whole idea is to luge by the truth on the frictionless skids of euphemism.

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.

Friday Ephemera

Nipple fortune telling, or “areola reading.” // Probe your colon with PillCam. // Cookbook of note. (h/t, Kurt) // A squirrel attempts to hide a nut in the fur of a Bernese mountain dog. // The Bond villain lair you’ve always wanted. // B-movie titles we have known and loved. // Boy quite chuffed with $60 robot hand. // This is what £197 billion worth of gold looks like. (h/t, drb) // A mouth’s-eye view of kissing. // More animal portraits. // Painted. // Unorthodox door. // Sunrise in Chicago. (h/t, Coudal) // Spectacles in New York. // Walking City. // Photographed cities. // “The taste certainly gets richer with age.” (h/t, Ace) // At last, a nocturnal toilet landing light. // And finally, Tainted Love, the floppy disc drive remix. 

Pearl-Clutching Pornographers

Further to the saga of the underpants statue and the subsequent swooning of Wellesley College’s liberated ladies, Fred Reed has more evidence of feminist fortitude

It seems that at Columbia University a rat pack of nursery feminists have got their skivvies in a knot because the library, Butler, is named for an, ugh!, man. Yes. It cannot be denied. In protest, these girls, apparently having nothing more important to do, have filmed “feminist pornography” in the library.

Indeed they have. It’s a “guerrilla action” response to “gender tension” and “male-centricity.” And “of course, it is a feminist statement.”  

Anyway, one of these drab libertines, a Sara Grace Powell, says, “Butler is an extremely charged space - the names emblazoned on the stone facade are, for me, a stimulant for resistance.” A stimulant to grow up might be more to the point. She means “stimulus,” of course, but why would a child at an Ivy university be expected to know English? To an extent I have to sympathise with Sara. I grant that seeing a horrible male name “emblazoned” would send me into a decline also. Wouldn’t it you? Never mind that if the man thus emblazoned had not made the money to donate the library, Sara wouldn’t have one in which to make pornography, presumably the purpose of libraries. 

As some readers may be intrigued by the notion of all-female feminist pornography, here’s a brief description:

It begins with a group of girls sitting around a library table taking their shirts off. As the film progresses, the girls engage in activities including kissing, rubbing eggs on their bodies and twerking around a chicken carcass.

The finished political opus, starring the aforementioned Ms Powell and titled Initiation, also features the somewhat lacklustre use of a riding crop, extended scenes of floor-wiping and what feels like an eternity of general aimlessness. It can be savoured at length here. Those hoping for red-blooded boi-oing fuel may, however, be disappointed. One of the film’s makers, Coco Young, has stressed the intent to transgress rather than titillate:

She was happy to see one commenter note that it was “hard to masturbate to this.” After all, the girls aimed to “create a repulsion”; there were naked women onscreen, but “they’re not there to make you sexually aroused.”

Despite dashed hopes and the sheer radicalness of it all, I trust readers will somehow get over it and get on with their lives.